American families overall are taking a more wholesome approach to food shopping, with 52 percent saying their purchases are healthy, according to a national survey released by M Booth & Associates’ Better4You group. The survey also found that when it comes to healthy eating and shopping habits, Americans can be grouped into six distinct personas, or segments: Child Pleasers, Jugglers, Budget Driven, Short Cuts, Health Savvies and Naturals.
The analysis of 1,125 food shoppers is designed to provide insights for marketers on reaching Americans and understanding their needs, habits and openness to healthier food choices.
“The survey allows us to help ‘healthy’ brand marketers find and tailor the right messages to specific groups of shoppers,” said Rich Goldblatt, co-director of the Better4You group. “Our findings help us understand the hierarchy of messages that resonate with the different segments and the media that can move them closer to becoming brand loyalists.”
When broken down by segments, the trend toward healthier eating is evident in the Budget-Driven and Natural groups. Only the Short Cuts (32 percent) and Child Pleasers (48 percent) find it more challenging to keep purchases healthy. And even though all the segments say the economic downturn has made a difference in their food purchases, overall 64 percent say they are prepared to pay more for healthy food.
The survey also found that across the board, food labels are more important than other factors when making purchases, with saturated fats, sodium and trans fats the biggest red flags. In addition, 8 in 10 food shoppers are conscious about the nutritional value of the items they buy for their kids.
But kids are fussy—all segments say their children complain about what they’re served—and two in three shoppers buy to appease their kids some of the time. Meanwhile, some 57 percent of parents feel pressured to find ways to prepare tasty, nutritious, affordable meals that their kids will want to eat. But overall, 42 percent say their kids are eating better than they were two years ago.
“As a nation, its’ good to see that American families are choosing to make more healthful food choices for their families”,” says Ruth Carey, a registered dietitian and a member of the Better4You advisory board. “Now these findings open doors to show food marketers new ways to reach parents with healthy messages and make point of purchase decisions easier.”
The agency defines the six segments as follows:
· Child Pleasers (27 percent): The largest single group in the survey admit they trade nutrition for their kids’ food preferences to avoid a dinner-table standoff. They try to sneak healthful food into meals, but family dynamics trumps health, so overt messaging about nutrition simply doesn’t resonate – and may even drive this group away.
· Jugglers (18 percent): The second largest group in the survey, these parents see cost, nutrition and child preferences as a balancing act but the balance bar sometimes comes down on the side of cost. They read nutrition labels but often they just buy food they know will be eaten.
· Budget Driven (16 percent): These parents do a reasonably good job of buying healthy foods, even on a budget. They are happy to try new healthy brands, and are very conscious of the nutritional value of the food they buy for their kids. They maximize their health-to-budget ratio by shopping at green markets and they cook more meals from scratch than any other cluster.
· Short Cuts (14 percent): These are parents who shop for convenience, choosing “quick and simple” rather than “natural” or “organic.” They know what’s right for family health but buy foods that fit into their lifestyle.
· Health Savvies (13 percent) These parents are younger than the other segments and prefer natural products, buy local, cook from scratch, and rely on labels to choose the healthiest products. Their kids, however, are fussy eaters and can make dinner time a battle time.
· Naturals (13 percent): These parents differ from the Health Savvies in that they are strong advocates of a wholesome lifestyle, including healthy eating. They cook from scratch, always read labels, are into probiotics and are more likely to be vegetarian. Also they are happy to pay a premium for healthy, natural foods despite the economy.